Just what is proworking?

By: SDavis1

If you’ve been living under a rock with no Wi-Fi connection for the past few years, you might not have heard of co-working. Spearheaded by companies such as WeWork and Work.Life the idea has conquered metropolises across the globe, offering a new kind of home to companies keen to avoid more traditional office arrangements. However, unless you, like me, slavishly follow commercial property news, you may have missed the latest trend to hit the industry’s shores: pro-working. So, for all of you poor souls not scanning property news every hour, I’ve decided to put together a quick explainer on the difference between the two.

Also known as the flexible office model and a myriad number of other names, co-working is at heart about flexibility and community. The business model has grown rapidly in recent years, with studies showing that between 2006 and 2015 the number of co-working spaces doubled each year. Co-working companies have proven to be immensely successful, with WeWork receiving a $430m investment in 2017 that tagged the company’s valuation at $16bn.

This rise is even more astounding when we remember that WeWork was only founded seven years ago. Now, it boasts over 100,000 members across 4 continents, 16 countries and 23 US cities. In the UK, take-up of co-working spaces nearly doubled between July 2016 and June 2017.

But what exactly is it about co-working that has driven its rapid, near-unprecedented rise in the commercial property space?

Its first innovation was the realisation that not every company wants to, or can afford to, pay long term contracts for self-contained office units. For businesses that plan on rapid growth or are still establishing their own viability (see: start-ups) co-working, where you pay as you go for as much as you need, is an attractive alternative to the traditional office.

The second advantage of co-working is that by renting space in what is essentially a shared office, you are buying access to a community of likeminded individuals. You can bounce ideas off of them, network, possibly find new talent for your business, and ultimately just feel the good vibes.

But some businesses don’t necessarily want the good vibes, if by good vibes we mean flip flops and a lax attitude toward ties in the workplace.

That’s where pro-working comes in.

Pro-working is more of a spin on the traditional serviced office setup than its start-up oriented cousin. It’s the more professional younger sibling of co-working. Pro-working combines the lease arrangement of co-working with a more formal community culture. For established businesses and certain industries that may want the connectivity and access to ideas and talent that co-working provides while also retaining a formal business environment, pro-working strikes an effective balance between the two.

The emphasis is on five star service and a high-end, corporate feel. A ‘boutique hotel’ style office opened in London last year, marketing itself toward companies looking for the dynamism of co-working spaces and amenities more tailored toward a traditional approach to work, including noise masking technology that creates a sense of privacy.

Pro-working has certainly proved to be a success. BE Offices, an independent provider of flexible offices that specialises in pro-working spaces embarked on a new phase of expansion in 2017, acquiring co-working business Headspace Group. The company also launched a new BESpoke division designed to attract larger corporate clients looking to tap into the kind of vibrant community that co-working spaces usually offer. BE Offices plans to grow the Headspace footprint to nearly 20 centres over the next three years, a signal of the confidence companies have in the resilience of the market.

Ultimately, both models are innovations which seek to take advantage of the central transformations of the modern world. The internet has allowed a reactiveness to demand that facilitates shorter contracts and when-you-need-them services that previous organisational systems couldn’t handle at the speed required to make the model viable. ‘On-demand’ is more in-demand than ever before, and pro-working and co-working are the commercial property industry’s answer to these transformations.

Co-working and pro-working are, as their similar names suggest, variations on a theme. The desire for both large multi-nationals and nimble start-ups to engage in collaborative communities of scale that further individual goals through the power of the collective is a powerful one. The advantages offered by both services are relatively similar – what’s changed is the surface level presentation - the atmosphere which is so key to fostering a particular kind of community unique to a place. It’s the same model of car, but one has a stripped out interior and racing stripes, while the other has seat warmers and a built in self-parking system.

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Based on research carried out by the team at https://www.freeofficefinder.com/

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